(Sept. 6, 1792-Feb. 1, 1864). Early settler Bethuel F. Morris was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, and moved to Ohio at age 18. He attained the rank of orderly sergeant in the Ohio Company during the War of 1812 before moving to Brookville, Indiana, in 1816, where he became county recorder.

In 1822, the Indiana General Assembly elected Morris state agent to survey, map, and oversee the sale of the remaining lots in the capital donation lands. Morris moved his family to Indianapolis in 1823 and established a law practice, including a brief partnership with prominent early settler and attorney Calvin Fletcher. He also became one of the first teachers of the interdenominational Indianapolis Sabbath School Union, established in 1823 (see sunday schools).

In January 1825, Morris became president judge of Indiana’s Fifth Circuit Court. In a controversial decision (1829), he handed down one of the nation’s first rulings against a slaveholder’s right to transport enslaved peoples through a free state, finding that an enslaved woman and three children passing through Indiana with their owner were free.

Morris served on the executive committee of the Temperance Society of Marion County (1830), as an Indiana University trustee (1828-1836), and as a founding member of Second Presbyterian Church (1838). He retired from the circuit court to become the first cashier of the Indianapolis branch of the State Bank Of Indiana (1834-1845). When failing eyesight forced his retirement from the bank, Morris withdrew from public life and spent his remaining years on his 40-acre farm on the east side of Madison Avenue. Present-day Morris Street marks the northern boundary of what once was his property.

Revised February 2021
KEY WORDS
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